Paralympian swimmer Sharath Gayakwad created history at the 2014 Asian Para Games in Incheon, South Korea, by winning 6 medals for India. In doing so, he created a new Indian record for winning the most medals at a multi-discipline event, previously held by PT Usha (5 medals at the 1986 Asian Games).
“When I was nine years old, my school in Bengaluru made swimming compulsory for everyone. Of course I had a problem, so they asked me to take things slowly. So I started paddling and then eventually learned how to swim properly”, he said on how he started swimming.
In 2002, Sharath came to know about the existence of competitive para-swimming in India. This started his epic journey. “During my school days, I raced with mostly able- bodied swimmers, and I did well, so I thought why not train for it. By now I had realised swimming was not just for fitness, but it was also about success for me”, he said.
He was selected to represent India in several youth competitions, before making his senior debut in 2006. Gayakwad was included in the 2010 Asian Para Games and in 2011, he went on to win two medals. A poor 2013 calendar year, saw him out with a recurrent shoulder injury. This affected his game, as Sharath did not meet expectations at the 2014 Para-Commonwealth Games.
Don’t retire, concentrate on swimming: Rahul Dravid to Sharath Sharath took Dravid’s advice seriously and went onto win six medals in Incheon, eclipsing PT Usha’s 36-year old record. This made him the most successful Indian athlete at an international multi-sport event.
Post his victory, Sharath has co-founded Gamatics.in, which aims to change the infrastructural and financial issues that plague para-sports in India. “There is infrastructure, but the way it is being governed is not right. We should concentrate on tapping the young talent” he said.
Sharath’s growth trajectory is an inspiration to all budding athletes in the country. Not only did he defy physical disability, but the ace swimmer also fought his way through infrastructural and societal problems, en-route to becoming India’s most successful sportsperson.
Saluting the die-hard spirit of Sharath Gayakwad